Squirt to the schnoz gives pupils painless flu protection

About 5,300 receive free doses in voluntary Carroll County program

Maryland

October 23, 2005|By GINA DAVIS | GINA DAVIS,SUN REPORTER

Some squinted their eyes. Some wriggled their noses. Many sniffled as they dabbed tissues to their leaking nostrils. But nearly all wore smiles after receiving a squirt of FluMist vaccination in each nostril.

"I was nervous because I had never done it before," said Jennifer Dawson, a third-grader at Charles Carroll Elementary in Union Mills. "But it was just a little ticklish, like having water in my nose."

Cody Dayhoff, a second-grader at the school, said he knew all along what to expect. That's because he was among a group of pupils who received the needle-free nasal vaccine two years ago at Elmer Wolfe Elementary in Union Bridge, the only school in the nation at the time where children were receiving the vaccination.

"That time, it made my eyes water a little, but it mostly tickled," Cody said of the vaccine, which took seconds to administer. "This time, it just tickled."

About 5,300 Carroll County elementary pupils were vaccinated with FluMist during school Thursday. The free vaccination program is voluntary.

During last week's vaccination program, school officials said, they heard of one incident of a student having trouble after receiving the FluMist. A Freedom Elementary pupil who was not identified reported feeling dizzy and was taken to Carroll County Hospital by ambulance, said Steven H. Guthrie, assistant superintendent of administration.

"The student was given Benadryl as a precaution, but a nurse from the [state] Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said it didn't sound like a FluMist reaction," Guthrie said. "Still, we took every precaution and called 911."

Guthrie said he was later notified by health department officials and Dr. James King - clinical researcher and professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who oversaw the school's FluMist program - that the child was all right.

The school system's program generated so much interest this fall that at least two schools ran out of the vaccine, Guthrie said.

The pupils who were unable to receive vaccinations last week - about 250 children, Guthrie estimated - are expected to be vaccinated during a makeup day Friday.

The parents of about 3,800 pupils had submitted permission slips by the Sept. 30 cutoff date, he said. At that point, school officials ordered 5,300 doses and continued to accept permission slips through Oct. 14. Pupils continued to come to school with permission forms Thursday.

"We didn't want to turn anyone away," Guthrie said. "But some students who anticipated getting it [last week] will have to wait until Friday."

The registered nurses and physician volunteers who vaccinated children at each of the school system's 22 elementary schools are scheduled to return in early December to administer a second dose to pupils younger than age 9 for whom this is their first FluMist vaccination.

Carroll pupils participated for two years in a University of Maryland medical school study. This year, school officials are expanding the vaccination program, which is no longer part of a study, to all eligible pupils. Eligibility included being at least 5 years old, in good health and having no allergies to egg products or a nasal flu vaccine.

The program last year included pupils at Elmer Wolfe, Piney Ridge and William Winchester elementary schools in Westminster. This year, Calvert County is the only other place in the state offering FluMist vaccinations.

MedImmune Inc., a Gaithersburg-based pharmaceutical company, donated enough vaccine for more than 12,000 pupils in Carroll. Two years ago, the Federal Food and Drug Administration approved the use of FluMist for healthy people ages 5 to 49.

During last week's vaccinations at Charles Carroll Elementary, Bea Thomas, a clinical manager for family birth and pediatrics at Carroll County Hospital, assured her pupil-patients that the vaccine wouldn't hurt - "we don't do needles here" - and instructed them to sniff in the drippy vaccine quickly.

Lynn Prescop, a nurse from Johns Hopkins Hospital and a volunteer with a state emergency response team, helped check the pupils in as they lined up at a table in the art room.

"OK, sweetheart, I'm going to squirt a little bit into each side of your nose," Thomas explained to second-grader Ben Clarkson, who dutifully sniffed up the vaccine. "Good job," she told him.

From the back of the line, giggles erupted as his classmates found his sniffling particularly funny.

"That was fun," Ben said. "It wasn't scary at all."

gina.davis@baltsun.com

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